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More than a Poet, but a Poet First: a Tribute to Maya Angelou

By Ed Southern, Executive Director, NCWN

Dr. Maya Angelou

Dr. Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou did so much more than write.

She danced with Martha Graham and Alvin Ailey, sang calypso, became the first African-American woman to operate a San Francisco cable car, acted on stage and in films and in Roots, composed a film score, edited newspapers, raised money for Martin Luther King, Jr., counted among her friends both King and Malcolm X, and knew six languages.

Yet she devoted most of her life and considerable energy to writing, and described herself, first and foremost, as a poet.

She attained a worldwide celebrity that few authors, especially poets, ever enjoy. James Baldwin helped her shape her first book, the bestselling I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Bill Clinton asked her to be a part of his first inauguration. Reporters (including, once in 1992, a skinny, pimply writer for the Wake Forest student newspaper) sought her opinions on world events. The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live spoofed her, lovingly. Oprah Winfrey adored her. She’d lived and worked in California, New York City, Cairo, Ghana.

Yet since she arrived in 1982, she made—and kept—her home in North Carolina. Two years ago I had the honor of letting her know that she was to be inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame, and in my letter I mentioned our Wake Forest connection, and my awkward attempt to interview her twenty years before.

Her gracious response expressed her pride in being included in the august company of North Carolina, and her pride simply in being a Tarheel—“though not,” she added, “a Tarheel.” (Go Deacs.)

“I expect to be in Winston-Salem the rest of my life,” she told Fresh Air in 1986. “My books are there, my art is there, my friends are there, and my work is there.”

Maya Angelou died yesterday morning in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which was and is proud to have been her home.

Dr. Maya Angelou, RIP

The Winston-Salem Journal is reporting that beloved poet, actress, and activist Dr. Maya Angelou has died at the age of 86.

WXII 12 News has confirmed.

Dr. Angelou lived in Winston-Salem and was the Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University. She read her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. She was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame in 2012.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends.

So What’s the Deal with Authors Alliance?

Authors Alliance celebrated its public launch on May 21. A membership organization devoted to “promoting authorship for the public good by supporting authors who write to be read,” Authors Alliance:

…embraces the unprecedented potential digital networks have for the creation and distribution of knowledge and culture. We represent the interests of authors who want to harness this potential to share their creations more broadly in order to serve the public good….The mission of Authors Alliance is to further the public interest in facilitating widespread access to works of authorship by assisting and representing authors who want to disseminate knowledge and products of the imagination broadly. We provide information and tools designed to help authors better understand and manage key legal, technological, and institutional aspects of authorship in the digital age.

Which sounds fine and good. After all, what author outside of J.D. Salinger doesn’t want to be read? But what if you want to be read…and paid?

Ah. There’s the kicker.

In a blog post for MichelleRichmond.com, T.J. Stiles breaks down the stated mission of Authors Alliance, an organization dedicated to “radically fair use.” He urges readers not to join Authors Alliance due to their “aggressive and expansive agenda that was crafted without working authors in mind.”

Executive Director Pamela Samuelson, a law professor at Berkeley, told Publisher’s Weekly that Authors Alliance is intended to “represent the interests of authors who don’t write for a living—academics and hobbyists.” Other potential organizational positions include:

  • allowing people to resell digital files the way they can resell used physical books
  • allowing libraries to digitally copy your books, even if you have an e-book edition for sale
  • allowing private for-profit corporations to copy your books in their entirety and selling advertising against searches of them, and otherwise making money from your work
  • allowing potentially unlimited copying for educational uses
  • requiring proper attribution of others’ works

Stiles goes on to note that the founding members, as academics, “don’t care about the commercial market for books or writing.” They all earn six-figure salaries from their day jobs, or they are independently wealthy. Which means “Their interests lie in getting your books at low cost to supply their own academic work, and in advancing their own careers and incomes by making their own work available for free.”

Authors GuildStiles is careful to say that if authors want to give their work away that is perfectly fine—he’s nothing if not “pro choice.” He just doesn’t want anyone making the decision for him.

As a board member of the Authors Guild, the nation’s largest and oldest professional society of published authors, Stiles does have a horse in the race. But he’s also a working writer who expects to be paid for his efforts.

The Authors Guild has been the nation’s leading advocate for writers’ interests in effective copyright protection, fair contracts and free expression since it was founded as the Authors League of America in 1912. It provides legal assistance and a broad range of web services to its members. Their website is http://www.authorsguild.org/.

NC Arts Day

By Ed Southern, Executive Director, North Carolina Writers’ Network

ARTS NCYesterday I joined hundreds of other representatives from North Carolina’s arts organizations for “Arts Day” at the North Carolina General Assembly in Raleigh. We spent the day visiting legislators in their offices, making the case for sustained funding of the North Carolina Arts Council and its grants program.

Many of you know that our annual Statewide Services Grant is the Network’s third-largest single source of revenue, behind only member dues and conference registrations. Thanks in large part to this support, we have not had to raise our prices—for membership, conference registration*, or the critique service—since 2007.

In that same period, though, the dollar amount of that grant has declined by nearly one-third, as state funding for the North Carolina Arts Council has declined by 38 percent. Quite simply, they’re not giving the Network as much money, because the state doesn’t give them as much money to give.

While I hope our visits (I was joined by literary leaders—and NCWN members—Carrie Knowles, Robin Miura, and Lynn York) had some effect, I know that even the most sociable visit from me won’t have nearly as much effect as a simple e-mail or phone call from you—the voters who have the power to send them back, or send them home, when they come up for re-election.

Please take a few minutes today to contact your elected officials in the House and Senate, and let them know how important state funding for the North Carolina Arts Council is to you.

You can find your representatives, and their contact information, here: http://www.ncleg.net/representation/WhoRepresentsMe.aspx.

Be sure to contact them at their legislative phone number or e-mail address, as they are in session now and will craft a budget soon.

Tell them your own story. Tell them how the arts have made your life, your community, better.

Remind them that the $7.1 million the state gives to the Arts Council fuels a nonprofit arts and culture industry that generates $1.24 billion (with a ‘b’) for North Carolina.

Point out to them that more cuts to arts funding won’t fix the state’s budget, but more cuts will most certainly damage the state, its people, and its quality of life.

Let them know, if they don’t already, that North Carolina is “The Writingest State,” and we intend to keep it that way for a long, long time to come.

* Before anyone quibbles that we raised the costs for the Squire Summer Writing Residency in 2011, keep in mind that we also raised its duration from three days to four. The workshop-to-fee ratio stayed the same.

Wishing Barnhill’s a Speedy Recovery

Barnhill's, 811 Burke St., Winston-Salem

Barnhill’s, 811 Burke St., Winston-Salem

Like any great duo you can name, books and wine pair naturally together.

Triad residents had plenty of reasons to rejoice back in 2010 when Barnhill’s opened in downtown Winston-Salem, because finally here was a store dedicated not only to promoting local authors and publishers, but also committed to sharing regional—as in North Carolina—wine.

Unfortunately, in an e-mail sent May 10, Barnhill’s announced it would be closing its doors on June 1, with the intention that “down the road we will reopen, though that date has not yet been set.”

Second Wind Publishing will occupy Barnhill’s current location at 811 Burke St. and expand their services to “copying, printing, and binding for the public.”

The author list at Second Wind Publishing includes NCWN members Sandra Lee Hartsell, H.V. Purvis, and Chuck and Heidi Thurston, among others. Now, along with publishing top-rate fiction and nonfiction, Second Wind will help you “create and duplicate anything from simple postcards all the way to banners—pretty much if you can think of it, we will find a way to make it.” They offer free delivery in Winston on orders of $10 or more.

As part of their closing/transition, Barnhill’s is offering the following discounts:

Books by Shelf up to 70% off
Art 20% (hanging, pottery, non-preprinted cards)
Jewelry 20%
Wine Racks 50%
Oenophilia products 50%
Benbow/ Fredrick Stevens Woodwork 30%
DVD/CD section 30%
Salsa 50%
Used Books (front room) 70%

And in the meantime, consider this post our “Get Well Soon” card to Barnhill’s. When we lose an independent bookstore, we lose an opportunity to discover new voices. We look forward to Banrhill’s return, with fingers crossed.

Bathanti: A Documentary

BathantiSome of you may have already had the chance to see the documentary Bathanti, in which Pittsburgh native and Poet Laureate of North Carolina Joseph Bathanti travels with filmmaker Kevin Balling to the places that inform Bathanti’s poetry, novels, short stories, and essays.

Bathanti, of course, is the current North Carolina Poet Laureate and a professor of Creative Writing at Appalachian State University. His most recent poetry collection is Concertina.

“It seemed inevitable that poet, educator, and author Joseph Bathanti would one day ascend to the exclusive rank of North Carolina Poet Laureate,” said David Potorti, Literature and Theatre Director, North Carolina Arts Council. “Kevin Balling’s documentary shows us why he so richly deserves the role.”

Interviews with the author are blended with the insight and perspective of writers Michael Parker, Robert Morgan, Kathryn Stripling Byer, Heather Ross Miller, and Abigail DeWitt. The film also presents readings of the author’s work, interpreted through location footage, photos, archival film, text, and soundtrack.

To complete the documentary, the duo hit the road to visit Bathanti’s hometown in Pennsylvania to shoot footage of locales he drew from when writing novels, poetry, and other types of prose. Throughout the film, images of fixtures in Bathanti’s work are shown, as the writer recites some of his work.

“I hope people will take away that this was a collaboration,” Balling said. “His words provided for me, as a filmmaker, with good visuals, picture/sound relationship, and my soundtrack worked well with his words.”

Released in 2013, the film has been shown at various locations and was an Official Selection for the 2013 Real to Reel International Film Festival.

If you haven’t seen it yet, Bathanti will be shown at the Gaston County Public Library, in Gastonia, on Saturday, October 4, at 2:00 pm. You can also purchase the film on DVD or Blu-Ray, here.

To watch a clip of the documentary, click here.

Announcing the 2014 SIBA Book Award Finalists

SIBA Book AwardThe Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance has announced the finalists for the 2014 SIBA Book Award, and there are several Tar Heel writers and one North Carolina small press among the distinguished list of names.

The SIBA Book Award recognizes great southern literature from the last year. These titles represent “booksellers’ favorite hand-sells of the year in fiction, nonfiction, children’s, young adult, poetry and cooking.”

Fiction finalists include North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductee Lee Smith and her novel, Guests on Earth, as well as Jill McCorkle’s Life after Life.

North Carolina native David Sedaris is among the finalists in nonfiction for his collection of essays, Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls.

Finalists in Poetry include North Carolina Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti and his collection, Concertina, as well as Cathy Smith Bowers’ Collected Poems of Cathy Smith Bowers, published by Winston-Salem’s Press 53.

John Grisham is a finalist in two categories: in Fiction, for his novel Sycamore Row, and in Young Adult for Theodore Boone: The Activist.

Winners will be announced July 4. For the complete list, click here.

Severe Weather This Week

As Richard Wilbur wrote in his poem, “A Storm in April”:

Some winters, taking leave,
Deal us a last, hard blow…

**snip**

This storm, if I am right,
Will not be wholly over
Till green fields, here and there,
Turn white with clover,
And through chill air the puffs of milkweed hover.

With severe weather sweeping through NC and the Southeast yesterday and last night, and with more expected today, we hope all our members, their families and friends will stay safe. Feel free to use our Facebook page and Twitter handle as a place to check-in with your friends and fellow writers across the state and the nation.

Booktopia Coming to Asheville

Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville will host Booktopia 2014, August 22-24. This nationwide program tends to sell out fast—like, in an hour fast—and registration for the Asheville happening opens soon. Click here to sign up to be notified as soon as registration opens.

From the website:

Booktopia is a series of weekend reader/author retreats hosted by Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman of the Books on the Nightstand podcast. Booktopia was envisioned as a way for listeners of Books on the Nightstand to gather together and share their love of books and reading. It has become something much, much more. Booktopia is a place where real connections happen: reader to author, author to author, and person to person. Now in its fourth year, Booktopia has been the starting point for many lifelong friendships, and our Booktopia authors have found lifelong fans. We’ve brought together readers from across the United States, and from Australia, Canada, Germany and Switzerland.

Authors for the Asheville event include Krista Bremer, Wiley Cash, Kim Church, Denise Kiernan, Ariel Lawhon, E. Lockhart, and Anthony Marra.

Sign up now to be notified as soon as registration opens!

**Please note, this event is now sold out. There will be a Celebration of Authors on August 23, at Malaprop’s, which is free and open to the public.**

Today, Give a Book to Someone You Love

Happy St. George's Day

Happy St. George’s Day

Did you know that UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, has declared April 23 “World Book and Copyright Day”?

That’s a bit of a mouthful, however, so today is often referred to, worldwide, as “The International Day of the Book.”

Way back in 1995, UNESCO declared:

23 April is a symbolic date for world literature. It is on this date in 1616 that Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died. It is also the date of birth or death of other prominent authors, such as Maurice Druon, Haldor K.Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov, Josep Pla and Manuel Mejía Vallejo.

Of course,  today is also World Book Night, which we highlighted here yesterday.

In Catalonia, Spain, April 23 has been St. George’s Day (The Day of the Rose) since 1436. Traditionally, among other more “spirituous” celebratory gestures, loved ones exchange books on this day. Hint…hint…

As if you needed another excuse to swing by your local indie bookstore on your way home tonight!

Happy International Day of the Book.